Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Obligatory Psuedo-Pretentious Film: Punch-Drunk Love

This is the first post of hopefully many where I will be choosing a film to rant about for a page in a semi-scheduled basis. Once every month, me thinks.

This June, we have:

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) 

Directed by P.T. Anderson (of Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood and The Master fame). Also, he won the Best Director award at Cannes for this film.

Mandatory Wikipedia page here.

  • Adam Sandler (yes, don't piss yourselves)
  • Emily Watson
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • The omnipresence of a box office bomb.
Yes, this was in fact a box office bomb. As Adam Sandler's (of Grown-Ups 1/2 along other shit-stain fame) first comedic departure (something he's actually rather good at - departing from comedy, not being comedic), this film failed horrendously, and I guess as such he did very little else other than comedy except Reign Over Me and Funny People. Despite this, this film was well received (critically at least), getting a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. That makes this the highest rated Adam Sandler film to date on Rotten Tomatoes (not including cameos, like Top Five).


Spoiler free here, there may be a spoiler version, but there isn't an awful lot that I can spoil that means anything without watching the whole film. Also not necessarily entirely chronological here. While the film is told chronologically, it would seem that I'm an imbecile who doesn't know how to write. Would explain some things if I'm honest.

So, Adam Sandler plays Barry Egan, a quirky but seemly friendly guy who makes a meagre living selling novelty plungers, or as he calls them, 'fungers'.

Constantly agitated due to his seven sisters (seemingly light-hearted) verbal abuse, and generally confused to 'normal' society, he is approached by one of his sisters (Elizabeth, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub) about bringing a friend to a birthday party taking place for another one of Barry's sisters.

Earlier that morning, Barry meets a woman (played by Emily Watson) after she arrives at his work in the morning, leaving her car and keys with him so that the mechanic can work on her car while she's away.
Lena and Barry at dinner.

After some work, Barry does arrive at the party, but only after four calls from his sisters ensuring he'll be there. Luckily for Barry, the friend Elizabeth was planning on bringing couldn't make it.

I can't really describe what happens here, but the work scene shares this too.
This film builds tension here. Mainly through social anxiety, something Barry would appear to suffer with. I can't reveal what does happen here, but it allows Sandler to really show his actual talent.

Please don't shoot me, but it's true.
Sandler can act.
Actually based off a true story. A person did this. Honest.

Upon discovering a promotion for Healthy Choice and American Airlines, Barry notices that any 10 products from Healthy Choice that he buys, he gets 500 frequent flier miles.

Although earlier, Barry does call the company to inform them of the monetary value and the potential exploitation of the offer, Barry finds that the pudding, which is $1 for 4 cups, allows him to rack up miles like no-one's business. 

Unfortunately, he doesn't travel.

Unfortunately an impeccable actor who is now lost to us.
There is a story arc here that involves a phone sex line, some gangs and Philip Seymour Hoffman yelling very loud down a phone a lot.

That's not placeholder text, but instead I think that it would be worth watching the film to experience it. It is quite a sub-plot.

In the morning, Elizabeth approaches him with her friend, none other than Lena, the girl he met with the car near the beginning. This once again, is teeming with social anxiety. I feel like this is the epitome of social anxiety portrayal in film, through visual metaphors and actual awkward dialogue. Turns out Lena will be going to Hawaii very soon. What a convenient use for pudding.


So, with the main setup for the plot covered, I figured I'd move to something really impressive, which is Jon Brion's soundtrack for this film. It's amazing. There is a track called 'Hands and Feet' (for some reason) which is used in the scene mentioned above, and while it feels a little out of place on its own (and that's an understatement), you can get the idea of how odd yet charming this soundtrack is. The trailer especially makes use of the soundtrack in a way that really sets the tone.

The soundtrack and film has the harmonium somehow involved in most tracks and in a couple scenes, especially near the beginning and end.


It's a P.T. Anderson movie with the cinematographer being Robert Elswit.

[Translation: The cinematography is stunning, using camera techniques to echo Kubrick and using lens flare and colour uniquely to represent development or emotion. It also is using long shots and long tracking shots to add a sense of fluidity to the film. Kudos to Robert Elswit, seriously.]


Punch-Drunk Love, while a box office bomb, really shines to me as a film about sweet love and issues that we may try to mask for the sake of appearances. Adam Sandler is stunning, as is all the cast, and I really wish Sandler did more stuff that wasn't crap*.

* For the record, I like Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, but they aren't exactly masterpieces.

TL;DR: This appears on screen and shifts for > 40 seconds.

Colour-fuck here.
You know it's an art-house film when you sit through approximately 40 seconds of moving colours and other video artwork by Jeremy Blake set to a messed up soundtrack of... kinda foreshadowing? I don't know.

Hurrah for Jeremy Blake, I suppose?

Videos (in links) belong to 'zenbullets' and 'Art Dater'. Don't sue me please.
Fair Use? Is that a thing?

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